Sophomore Gabrielle Altenor is raising the bar on extracurricular activities with powerlifting.
Altenor said even though her high school, Kapaun Mount Carmel (KMC), did not have a powerlifting team until her senior year, she had been lifting all four years for strength and conditioning for the other sports she was involved in.
“The biggest push in high school was to get all the athletes in the weight room, especially during offseasons,” she explained.
Altenor’s powerlifting coach, Clint VanCuren, said that powerlifting at KMC gave students who were not competing in winter sports the chance to still compete and aim for high achievements.
“The competition aspect helps them create and shoot for goals,” said VanCuren. “Most of a student’s work and time they put into the weight room tends to go overlooked and unnoticed, so it gives them a little more drive to push themselves in the weight room and they can in return get some credit and accolades for the work they have put in.”
At first, Altenor said she was hesitant to join the powerlifting team, but joined after some convincing from some supportive coaches.
“I thought I’d turn into the stereotypical, bulky lifter,” she said. “However, [VanCuren] and my other track coach, Marvin Estes, assured me that I wouldn’t turn into the Hulk and that all my work would help me compete for my sports simultaneously.”
VanCuren said Altenor immediately jumped into the swing of things and pushed through every adversity to work hard for the team.
“When we were starting out, Gabby did have pretty good natural strength, but she also had a great work ethic. She came in every morning at 6 a.m. before school to train,” VanCuren said. “She put in a lot of hard work in order to have the success she did, and she made sure to tell me every day how sore she was.”
All of Altenor’s hard work paid off when she placed second overall at state competition and first in the bench press.
Estes said that Altenor, who is currently in Guatemala studying and serving abroad, has always been a positive role model for other student-athletes to look up to.
“Gabby was always a leader by example. Always upbeat and always worked harder than anyone else,” he said. “She is also a multi-faceted academic star, athletic star and one of the nicest people you will ever meet.”
VanCuren said Altenor’s positivity and drive are what really helped them build the team.
“As soon as I talked her into doing powerlifting, she began going out and recruiting and every time I would see her she would tell me that she talked to someone else and they wanted to be on the team,” VanCuren said. “She was a vital component as far as helping build the team and program.”
Altenor attributes a great deal of her success to her brother Patrick, who she said has continually pushed her to do her best.
“At first, we were neck and neck, but he soon surpassed me in strength. However, because I practiced with him, it made me one of the strongest girls at Kapaun,” she said. “He and I continued to do many of the same sports together, including powerlifting, track and field (shot put and discus) and basketball.”
When searching for a college, Altenor said, “I took loads of credits through Newman in high school. I think, coming in, I had about forty. This and the Cardinal Newman Scholarship definitely helped me to look more into becoming a Jet.
“I also knew I wanted to attend a Catholic college, as my college options were down to Notre Dame and Newman University. There were many reasons why I chose Newman, but principally the opportunity to stay in the diocese of Wichita appealed to me the most.”
For Altenor, powerlifting is not just about lifting weights but rather about the way it empowers her to be better every day.
“Although I don’t compete anymore, I realized that lifting weights is still necessary for my life because of how it makes me feel,” she said. “Being physically strong is important to me because it gives me the confidence and mental strength needed to take on challenges in all avenues of my life, whether it be related to school, work, physical activity or even volunteering.”